Wednesday, November 29, 2017


An art of being in the awareness of the moment

Figure 1 - Mindfulness - Being a witness and non-judgmental to everything.

About Figure 1. In a human being’s mind there are many thought processes that happen every moment, there are many preconceived notions that have grown like big tress over a period and there are lots of emotions also. Mindfulness is being a witness to all these aspects without any judgment.


Try reading this article when you have some free time and mostly not disturbed by anything that requires your immediate attention. At the end of every paragraph take a pause – breathe in and breathe out and focus on at least three inhalations and exhalations. Because, the intent of this article is not to load you with more information on Mindfulness (even though it happens), but to make you as a reader to be mindful of your breath which is your most noble friend since you have acquired your physical body and will be with you till you leave the physical body.

Now we have come to the end of the first paragraph. Please become mindful of your breath. Take a deep inhalation – breathe in deeply and exhale – as you exhale relax into the exhalation. Take two more deep breaths and relax into the exhalation as you exhale completely. 😄


What is mindfulness?

Different authors gave different definitions of mindfulness. For me the way I look at it is – “mindfulness is a state of awareness in which one is aware of whatever is happening in that moment.” “Being conscious or aware of the moment, and moment to moment and whatever is happening, being aware of that moment, and moment to moment is mindfulness.”


Thich Nhat Hanh, one of my favourite authors on mindfulness defines mindfulness as "Mindfulness is to be aware - To be aware when you are breathing in and to be aware when you are breathing out…it is the capacity to be aware of what is here. Anything can be the object of mindfulness. Your breath. The sky. It is to be in touch with our felt experience in each moment"[i].

Jon Kabat Zinn another mindful author says, “mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, in the present, and non-judgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment by moment[ii].”

Another author Jack Kornfield defines mindfulness as to distinguish awareness from mental activity - it is to learn to be aware of our own mental states without being caught in them[iii].”

Why Mindfulness?

The modern times coined an abbreviation “WIIFM – What’s in it for me?” In olden days, the same is used to be as “is it beneficial to me?” “Is it beneficial to the society?” In olden days if something must be considered, then it should be beneficial, or any act must result in beneficence. Considering this aspect, what is there in mindfulness? Is it essential? Who started it? Who propagated it? Is it a new skill, that I need to acquire? Is it simple or difficult? Why should I even consider it?

To answer all these questions, we need to understand how our human body metabolism works. The body of a human being is a multi-complex chemical entity. Based on various thoughts that we think or forced to think based upon the external circumstances or the surrounding environment, each thought will result in an emotion with very low intensity to medium to high intensity. Based upon the intensity, the human brain releases certain chemicals and these chemicals result in physiological changes and can have positive or negative side effects. If this is the real scenario, then it is wise and sane to see that we think only those thoughts which releases chemicals that give us happiness or result in happiness.

Now, when I am alone I can make every attempt to keep myself happy or think only those thoughts that keeps me happy (mostly – may not be for everyone). What about when I am in midst of someone or an environment that is not conducive enough to be happy. Under such circumstance what we need to develop is an ability to respond (not to react). If we can build ourselves an ability to respond to any kind of situation based upon what exactly that situation is demanding, then we should be in a position where we do not get disturbed or not get into a situation where our brain releases chemicals that result in harming the body.

What are these chemicals that gets released by the human brain? When we face danger, we either chose to fight the situation (if we have enough strength) or make every attempt to escape the situation. This is called as fight-or-flight mode. In any dangerous situation the fight-or-flight response could be appropriate especially when we are living in a jungle and a tiger is ready to prowl on us or a snake is ready to bite. What happens in these situations is that the signal or the sense of dangerous situation reaches the brain where the information that is received is processed. The brain in that instant sends a signal from the motor cortex to the muscles in the body to get ready by tensing and defend the situation. The hypothalamus that is present above the brain stem sends another signal to the pituitary gland, which will send a chemical signal through the blood stream to the adrenal glands. These adrenal glands after receiving the signal will respond by releasing a series of stress hormones, including epinephrine which is generally known as adrenaline. This so-called adrenaline rush will make us either to fight or escape the situation.

Now, we all are human beings who rarely live in the natural jungles, hence fear of life should not be there. So, use of adrenaline or the adrenaline rush is not really required. However, we all have fears in another way. Fear of non-availability of food, fear of ill-health, fear of boss, fear of losing job, fear of not getting enough recognition in the workplace or society or fear of something or the other whether wanted or not. In one way we got so much addicted to this, that instead of changing these situations, we are trying to manage them by using chemicals produced externally in some way or the other and overcoming the ill side effects that these fears or causing to our human physiology. Over a period, we have found that instead of curing, we have made some less futile attempts to manage them only. These fears resulted in stress. The side effects of stress are present both on body and mind. In short periods of stress, the heart rate increases, breathing pattern becomes shallow and fast and this will result in blood pressure. When we are under constant stress, our adrenal glands produce a chemical called cortisol. During periods of increased stress, “the immune cells are being bathed in these molecules which are essentially telling them to stop fighting,” according to Dr. Esther Sternberg[iv] . These molecules, namely cortisol, suppress the immune system and inflammatory pathways, rendering the body more susceptible to disease. Any overexposure of this hormone can affect the function of our brain, our immune system and various other organs in our body. Over a period when this becomes chronic, it results in frequent headaches, anxiety, depression, heart diseases, diabetes, nervous breakdown, insomnia and in some cases a premature demise.

Endorphines and serotonin are those hormones that are popularly thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness.

Hence, how to release the right hormones and in the desired quantity is the goal and need of the hour. For this to happen we need to understand what and how a human being is mostly considered of and what are those aspects of a human being that are very important in accomplishing a task. There are four dimensions of a human being which we look in the next section.

Four dimensions of human being

When we look at the aspect of handling any activity in life, then one thing that most of us forget is the four dimensions of a human being by which a human being differs from other living beings. These four dimensions are emotion, intellect & wisdom, action and energy. Until and unless these are not balanced equally, any aspect of life cannot be handled. Most of the times, any one of them dominates and while any activity when it is carried out by dominance from these four dimensions will not result in 100% success. Mindfulness practices and subsequently obtained meditative states will make any individual to balance these four dimensions.

Without emotion we do not get interest to perform an activity. Just with emotion we cannot perform the activity, we also need enough knowledge about that activity or how to perform that activity. This is where the intellect and wisdom to perform that activity helps. To perform any activity, we need energy. We need to assimilate the right resources and acquire required energy to perform the activity. Once we have all the three we need to execute and perform the activity, that is where the action part comes in. Hence an equal proportion of all the four will result in balance of the individual and the individual will be able to perform the activity in the right way.


What is emotion? Emotion is defined as a response from the brain in terms of a chemical release based upon any thought or thought process. Different thoughts and thought processes result in different emotions and in turn will release different chemicals. This means right emotion will release the right chemical which keeps us happy, while wrong chemical releases wrong chemical which will lead our body to ailments. So, how to create the right emotion? Devotion towards the activity will make us to understand the emotion of the work.

Right emotion depends on four factors: 

  1. Purpose, 
  2. Interest, 
  3. Intent, and 
  4. Character. 
  • The first factor - "Purpose" is derived from Vision and Mission of the task; 
  • The second factor "Interest" arises from short term and long term benefits and the goals associated with the task (aligned to the Vision and mission of the organization or society or family); 
  • The third factor "Intent" depends upon the appropriateness of the task. If the intent is appropriate, then right emotion will exist. If the intent is inappropriate, the right emotion will not arise, and even if it exists in the beginning, it will eventually fade away; and 
  • the fourth factor "Character" is based upon aspects of Integrity and Courage.

Intellect & Wisdom

Just with devotion towards the emotion of activity will not result in anything until and unless we obtain knowledge about that activity this can be learned in three ways: 1. Perceptions (perceiving about that particular task through all the five senses), 2. Right thought process and 3.Pondering - which further lead us to 7 steps of learning (1. Content, 2. Practice, 3. Originality/ Unprecedentedness, 4. Fruit of action or result, 5. Reasoning/ Illustration, 6. Eulogy, and 7. Summary - उपक्रमोपसंहारावभ्यासोSपूर्वताफलं  अर्थवादोपपत्ती  लिङ्गं तात्पर्यनिर्णये। - Vedanata Sutra).

Mindfulness will provide the right approach in perceiving and to think in the right manner based on the perceptions and further make the individual to ponder on the task and develop a strategy in understanding completely about the task.


If there is no right energy, then nothing can be accomplished. The right energy will not come until we are convinced physically and psychologically about the benefit the activity is going to result in. Especially any activity that results in benefitting the society should result in the right energy. On the aspects of energy – we have gross energy - this is the physical energy. In Sanskrit it is called as "Kriya Shakti." The physical energy that is required to complete a task. This will come only when we have the other two energies; those are the subtle and causal energies. The subtle energy (psychological) is based upon the intellectual knowledge and the wisdom one has gained regarding the task. In Sanskrit it is called as Jnana Shakti. And, the third form of energy is called as causal energy (this comes from the basic reason to carry out an activity). In Sanskrit this energy is called as "Iccha Shakti." If one is not willing to perform an activity, then one will not get the right or required energy to perform the activity. We often see this in most of the worldly activities that people carry out in their day-to-day lives. Most of the people are compelled to work rather than willing to work. They might be compelled to work for many reasons. For some it is to feed themselves are the family. For some it is the EMIs that they have towards their house or car or some possessions. For some it could be simple reason of power - power to stay in some top position. Whatever could be the reason, as long it is a compulsion, 100% willingness does not come. 

Mindfulness can make an individual overcome this compulsion and provide the right attitude and the right energy on all the three levels to perform the activity. Mindfulness will take the individual beyond the three levels of energies and neutralize the individual's energy and provide him/her the right energy that is required to perform the activity.


Without act the work cannot be accomplished. One must execute the plan and complete the activity in the desired way, then the purpose of the activity will be accomplished. The action part is governed by 4 factors: 1. Vulnerability, 2. Accountability/Ownership, 3. Rewards & Recognition, and 4. Celebration. As a human being one need to balance all the four aspects.

1. Vulnerability: What is the vulnerability in performing the activity? Is it going to demand my time, money, energy, etc., and how much? These are all questions that need to be answered before taking up the activity. If WIIFM (What Is In It For Me) is not answered completely, then the individual feels vulnerable in performing the activity and will not give 100% to the task at hand.

2. Accountability/Ownership: If the activity puts the individual in a vulnerable position, then the individual will never be able to take accountability/ownership towards that activity.

3. Rewards & Recognition: Provided the individual understands the vulnerability and takes up the ownership in carrying out the activity, he or she should be rewarded and recognized appropriately for the activity that has been carried out, or else the accountability towards that action slowly fades away.

4. Celebration: Any accomplishment of task or activity should result in some sort of celebration however minute it could be. When the accomplishment of task or activity results in celebration it motivates the individual to repeat the tasks often.

Mindfulness will make an individual to overcome most of these compulsions and will make him/her to perform the task at hand with right attitude and right action and make him/her to exhibit responsibility (ability to respond) in accomplishing the task. When this happens, the individual experiences peacefulness which makes the body to release the right chemicals and increases immunity which in turn results in sound health (body), mind and spirit.

Mindfulness Practices
Practice 1

Sit straight by keeping your spine straight (natural S-curve). Sit either on a chair (preferably armless chair) or on the floor on a mat with a slight elevated cushion at the base of the spine in cross legged posture. Keep your head straight. If you are sitting on a chair, then keep your feet flat, uncrossed). Rest your hands rested on the legs near the knees or at the junction of thighs and abdomen, with palms facing upwards. Inhale and exhale. Take few deep breaths. While exhaling relax into the exhalation. Do this three to five times. Follow the breath gently without any stress. Keep your body relaxed throughout. While gently breathing in and out focus on the flow of breath and do not make any attempt to manipulate the flow of breath. Just be with the natural flow of breath.

Practice 2

In continuation to practice one, while focusing on the breath also focus on the state where the breath stops for a while – either at the junction of inhalation and exhalation or at the junction of exhalation and inhalation - there will be a pause at these two points before the breath flows in either direction. Focus gently on this state also. Become aware of this state. Gently shift your focus from your breath to this sacred pause where the flow of breath ceases and/or is stilled. Just become aware of it.

Coming out:

While continuing the practice 2, gently shift your focus back to breath and take some deep breaths. Inhale and exhale and while exhaling relax into the exhalation. Do this for 3 to 5 breaths and gently open your eyes. Carry the peace and stillness that you have experienced in practice 2 into your daily activities and whenever you find some time, practice the two mindfulness practices again. Make your practices a regular routine – morning and evening and enjoy the benefits of mindfulness.

Practice 3 (The middle path)

Whenever, there is an emotion - especially negative emotion that of grief, fear, anxiety, anger, etc; then instead of denial of that emotion or rejecting that emotion, observe that state intensely and as you keep observing that, there will be a state where there is no emotion state also for a brief while. Once you can observe that, try to be in that no emotion state., try focusing on that state. Every time the negative emotion comes up, again come back to the no emotion state and become mindful of it. Then go through the practices 1 and 2, eventually you can overcome every kind of emotion.

There are various mindfulness practices through which one can be very peaceful. It may not be a solution to everything, but it will be a definite solution for to keep oneself peaceful, which equips oneself an ability to respond to various situations appropriately, provided, one practices these practices for a long time.

For a 15 minutes downloadable mindfulness audio session, click on the link.

[i] Thich Nhat Hanh (1992). Peace is every step: The path of mindfulness in everyday life. New York: Bantam Books
[ii] Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain and illness. New York: Delacorte.
[iii] Jack Kornfield (2009). The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology. New York: Bantam Books.